A word that gets bandied around a lot in the textiles business these days is Dupion Silk (meaning Double) or Dupioni as it is also referred to sometimes. So how is it different from conventional silk? This type of silk is produced when two or more silkworms spin their cocoons closely together. These intertwined cocoons produce a filament that is rough and uneven. This, when woven, creates a highly lustrous fabric as the uneven texture tends to reflect more light. Dupioni is easy to dye, so fabrics are often brightly coloured.
This fabric is often confused with Shantung which has less prominent slubs and is the finer of the two materials and hence preferred for making bridal and other formal wear. Dupion, on the other hand, is more rustic, giving it the feel of a light or medium-weight Taffeta and is mostly considered suitable for upholstery, home decorating and quilting projects. However, if it is crafted into a curtain or drape, a substantial underlining must be used to protect the fabric from wear and tear. It has been the preferred material for embroidery, patchwork, quilting, mounting lace and gold work in the recent years.
There are two types of Silk Dupion — Handwoven Silk Dupion, which is highly textured, and Powerwoven Silk Dupion, which is smoother, although it still has some slub.
India is a major producer of Dupion silk. Weavers of Benaras and neighbouring villages, particularly those belonging to the Ansari community, have been producing this fabric for generations and catering to the ever-growing demands of the Indian wedding industry.